Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Y'all Gotta Be Borned Again! - August 31, 2010

Good Tuesday morning! Ah, the coolness has arrived; what a great morning for a walk! I see that, if the weather forecaster is correct, we will be welcomed to September on Thursday night with a low of 47°. That's plenty cool for a summer night. Let's see, a hurricane is loose in the Caribbean, a volcano is erupting, war continues in Afghanistan, and disease is a problem in the flooded areas of Pakistan... seems about par for our world these days. Oh, and California is apparently overdue for a major earthquake. I think we could use another dose of God's Word this morning.

John 3:7 "So don't be surprised when I say, 'You must be born again.'"

Nicodemus has just received an answer that has set him back on his heels. A lifetime of spiritual training in the law has not saved him and Jesus has told him to start over. Not just start over on his career, but start over on all of his life. The fun part of this verse is the Greek word for 'you', which is plural. We might say, "Y'all" to include everyone. If Jesus had been born down south, he would have told Nicodemus, "Y'all gotta get borned agin' " We might chuckle over the turn of a phrase, but Jesus had an important message. He would not have let a little thing like how people talk stand in the way of the message. The 'you' included everyone, not just Nicodemus. Don't be surprised, all of us must be born twice to see Heaven. There, I repeated the Good News!

Why is a requirement to be born twice good news? We have already learned that to be born again the Holy Spirit must act on us; we cannot do it on our own. The Good News is that there is a way to get to Heaven. I don't know about you, but that is very important to me. The Law has already proven to be more than I can live up to. If I cannot get to Heaven by perfect obedience to the law, I do very much hope there is another way. Praise God for the saving work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus has told Nicodemus what must happen. Now how do we get the process started? We are not quite there yet, but the answer is in this chapter. Hold on for the good news about the Good News!

Have a great day in Christ!


Monday, August 30, 2010

Little Lost Sheeps - August 30, 2010

Good Monday morning! The sun is shining; the birds are singing; the clouds of the next cold front are starting to push in, and the cat is busy slurping himself; what more could you want from a Monday morning? How about an answer to that question of being born of the Spirit? We'll get a little closer with a bit more information today as Jesus continues his answer to Nicodemus.

John 3:6 - "Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life."

What do we read in this answer? Being born of water is indeed the human birth we have all experienced. I will assume that none of you were hatched from a dinosaur egg, no matter what your parents might have told you. However, the other birth, being born of the Spirit, is something we cannot accomplish. Jesus tells Nicodemus that to be born of the spirit is what he means literally. The Holy Spirit gives us the second birth. That is a great comfort to me, because like Nicodemus, I have no idea how to be reborn. My physical strength, God-given talent, education, and experience in this life has in no way given me the answer to how to be born twice or be born of the Spirit. In fact everything that I have learned thus far says that being born twice is quite impossible. Yes, I realize there is a group of knuckleheads who do the thing with the bag, but that is just dangerous and silly. We can't be physically reborn. Each of us gets the one physical birth in this life and that is it. So to learn that the second birth is accomplished by the Holy Spirit causes us to breathe a sigh of relief. We want to see the Kingdom of God, but have no idea how to rebirth ourselves. Praise the Lord; it isn't something we do, but something the Holy Spirit does!

Of course, Nicodemus is going to ask for more. He stands in for us in this case as neither he nor any of us will understand all that Jesus is giving us from just these two verses. We all know that Jesus wasn't referring to a physical second birth, we get that part, but what is this birth of the Spirit? Taking this one verse at a time, it may seem at times that Jesus is teasing us with a little knowledge or holding back in some way. You might find out that the answer is: yes and yes. Jesus gives Nicodemus and all of us who read His Word, as much as we can take in with each verse. He does give us a hunger for more of the knowledge of the Spirit, but he also holds back from trying to give us the whole knowledge all at once.

We have a couple of problems in our ignorance and unbelief. We tend to think that enough learning in this life will enable us to understand everything. When we labor in our unbelief in Christ, we also tend to discount anything that seems totally preposterous; such as someone telling us we must be born again. The attempt to fix our ignorance through the accumulation of human knowledge tends to reinforce our unbelief in Christ, which in turn feeds our further ignorance of those things that are critical to know for eternal life. No wonder Jesus called us lost sheep! Like Nicodemus, we are sheep walking up the incline of life toward the blank wall of death. We can neither see nor understand what is behind that wall, and we wander hither and yon searching for the answers. Jesus has the answers we seek, but we must repent of our way to follow him. Nicodemus did the right thing by coming to Jesus, but will he understand or take in enough to believe in the way to see the Kingdom of God? I always thought the way to destruction was broad because so many choose it. But in thinking about how lost we are before coming to Jesus, I see that the way to destruction must be broad so that all the lost sheep can wander and stumble into it. Finding the narrow way to Jesus requires a turning around, which little lost sheep do not like to do!

Have a wonderful new week in Christ Jesus!


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Slowly and Gently - August 28, 2010

Good Saturday morning! A paper in front of me bears the facsimiles of two signatures I don't see very often any more. The second signature looks a lot like "Cobele", I'm not sure if that signifies anything or is just confusing. The military seemed to prefer our signatures legible and even ordered us to us our middle initial in the full payroll signature as they called it. Unfortunately, the signature thing in the military has made me somewhat more cognizant of other signatures than perhaps most people are in the normal daily life. Is this useful in any way? Perhaps for a bank teller, but for me it's mainly just a distraction. There, paper turned over so as to not bother me any longer.

Slowly and Gently

Have you ever been forced to train or learn at an accelerated pace? You may have been sent to one of the business world's so-called 'boot camps' or been placed into an accelerated program in school. In either case, the new material to learn may have come at a pace that left you feeling a little stupid or slow. Today, Nicodemus is probably feeling kind of ignorant after being told that he must be born again. Nicodemus has blurted out the obvious question about an old man and his mother, but does not yet understand what Jesus means. In today's verse, Jesus gives him a little more to ponder on.

Jesus replied, "I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit." John 3:5

Jesus now gives Nicodemus the two births that we must undergo in order to get to Heaven, or to see the Kingdom of God as Jesus said. Nicodemus probably has no more idea what being born of the Spirit means than he did of how to be reborn physically, but at least he now knows that the second birth is not a physical one. Even today we use the expression, "her water broke" to mean that a new baby is soon to come into the world. This expression is more than likely as old as the first human birth. Nicodemus knew what being born of water meant, but what is this born of the Spirit all about? Jesus will go on to explain further, but like us, he brings Nicodemus along slowly and gently. We can only learn so much at a time. New things, such as being born of the Spirit, can be startling and hard to learn. Jesus brought in his person and words an entirely knew message. Nicodemus is getting the Good News and he can't take it all in at once. We tend to ask questions at times not so much to get a different answer, but to give our own minds a chance to catch up. In my case the tactic doesn't always work, but a new thing can be difficult to grasp. Here, Nicodemus, a learned man of the Pharisees has met the Good News in the person of Jesus Christ. A lot of changing is going to have to take place in the mind of Nicodemus to absorb this new message from God. We were in just that same state when we first came to believe in Jesus. Be patient if it seems you don't understand much more than you did then: Jesus is bringing you along slowly and gently.

Have a wonderful day in Christ!


Friday, August 27, 2010

Get Born Again? - August 27, 2010

Good Friday morning! Just when I was starting to wonder about the hurricane season, I see a news item about Hurricane Danielle and other storms forming out in the Atlantic. Did you hear that NASA is offering advice to the Chilean miners trapped in the cave-in? They may be stuck in that tunnel for four months or more, I think they need a higher power - remember them in your prayers. Perhaps someone in that tunnel will find an answer he didn't know that he had asked the question for. Today, we get Nicodemus' first reaction to Jesus' statement about being born again.

"What do you mean?" exclaimed Nicodemus. "How can an old man go back into his mother's womb and be born again?" John 3:4

Exactly what you or I might have asked in Nicodemus' place at that time. Eh? Be born again; is the man daft? No weekly or annual sacrifices, no attention to every detail of the Law, no personal code of goodness - Jesus simply tells the learned man of the Pharisees that he must be born again to see the Kingdom of God. Of course Nicodemus is more than a little confused. His entire religious system has just been called into question. We know the solution is speaking to him and sitting right in front of him, but Nicodemus doesn't realize that yet. He asks the obvious: "How can that happen?" We are often limited by our physical senses in a fallen world. We cannot go back to infancy, climb back into our mothers and be reborn. Those fantasies always include having the advantage of our lifetime of experience to build on. Nicodemus apparently had quite a bit of experience he wanted to hold onto as well for he refers to himself as an old man. By this time in his life, Nicodemus may think that he has a pretty good idea of what is possible. Jesus seems to have set an impossible task before him.

What task has Jesus given you that seemed impossible when you first learned of it? Let me guess on that one... all of 'em? I think that God likes to show us his power and mercy in the tasks he sets before us. How would we come to believe in his saving power if every task he gave us was of the mundane sort that each of us could do on our own? Nicodemus probably had a lot of book smarts, experience, and authority in his life. But Jesus immediately set a task before him that he could in no way accomplish on his own. "You want to know about salvation? Go get born again!" How would we answer that upon hearing it for the first time. Of course we would be just as confused as poor Nicodemus. Jesus won't leave him, or us, hanging on that one though. Stay tuned for the great answers from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

Have a relaxing and restoring weekend in Christ!


Thursday, August 26, 2010

What? Born Again? - August 26, 2010

Good Thursday morning! Hope you are up early today, because here comes the devotional!

Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God." John 3:3

Nicodemus brilliant first question... does not get asked. Jesus gives him an answer before Nicodemus even gets a question spoken! Just after listening to what is more than the usual polite greeting, Jesus doesn't give a polite response or even an acknowledgement. Instead, Jesus gets right to the truth, and right into the matters of importance. "I tell you the truth..." Right then we know through reading, and Nicodemus knew because he was there, that Jesus is saying something both timeless and that we need to know. We need to know the truth, and Jesus is going to spell it out for Nicodemus and everyone who reads his words. "...unless you are born again..." What? Beyond the obvious physical limitations, how does this work? Here is an example of believing in Jesus or not believing in Jesus. If you choose to not believe, then you are going to stumble over this small phrase. An intellectual will know that a person cannot be born again. A learned person will scoff at such nonsense. A person obviously can't be reborn from his mother! However, Jesus spoke only the truth and that is what he said, we must be born again. What is the problem with that? If we are not born again, Jesus tells Nicodemus that we cannot see Heaven, or the Kingdom of God.

Nicodemus didn't even ask the question, but received what is perhaps the most stunning answer in all of history. Even a person who refuses to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and that the Bible is the very Word of God, will have trouble with this statement made by Jesus. That he began with, "I tell you the truth..." leaves us no wiggle room in our choosing. As C.S. Lewis noticed many years ago, you must believe in Jesus as the Truth, call him a liar, or write him off as crazy. We can see that in that choice there are two negative possibilities. This shows that the wrong choice is always much easier than the right one. Once you decide to believe in Jesus, and this verse is certainly the place to start making that stand, Jesus tells you what must happen for your salvation. You and I must be born again to see the Kingdom of God! How can this happen? We cannot tell from this one verse.

Although every verse is important in the Bible and all scripture has value for our Christian education, one verse alone does not usually hold the answer we seek. However, there is one verse, another statement by Jesus, that does hold the answer to this question of being born again. For now, we will just have to wait, and wonder, with Nicodemus as he tries to figure out the answer to a question he never got the chance to ask. This shows us something else of Jesus - his time was valuable during his earthly ministry. Jesus does not seem to be one to dwell on pleasant flattery or even genuine compliments, whichever Nicodemus meant in this case. Without waiting for Nicodemus to start asking questions of him, Jesus states the heart of the matter. "Nicodemus, if you want to go to Heaven, you must be born again." to add a little paraphrasing of my own there. That sounds like starting over in life. How in the world can we do that? Is Jesus leaving Nicodemus, and us, with no hope at all? Certainly there have been times that you or I may have looked at our lives and thought that starting over would be a good beginning, but of course we know that isn't possible. However, that seems to be just what Jesus has told Nicodemus is of critical importance. What is the answer to this conundrum? Nicodemus isn't slow or stupid; tomorrow we will see the very questions that any of us would have in the same situation.

Have a wonderful new day, even at this early hour, in Christ Jesus!


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

How Much did He Believe? - August 25, 2010

Good Wednesday morning! How are you today? The weather is nice this morning with light breezes and cool temps. We are watching the corporate minions head off to work for another exciting day in Cubeville or Corporemia depending upon whether you prefer the Dilbert term or my own. I found some corn growing in an unusual place this morning on my walk. Someone may have lost their garden in the big storm back in July, but the beauty of the seed is that it grows where it is planted... even if the planting is transplanted by a big rainstorm. Keeping an eye on the few corn plants seems like fun, I'll try to see how well the corn grows where it is. Some of our brothers and sisters in Christ are facing a transplanting right now. We grow where God has planted us, but sometimes our Lord wants to move us to a bigger pot in a manner of speaking. We can resist the move of course, but we know by now that everything God wants or commands us to do is for our own benefit.

What wisdom awaits us in today's verse?

After dark one evening, [Nicodemus] came to speak with Jesus. "Rabbi," he said, "we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you." John 3:2

Many times I have heard that Nicodemus came after dark to be sneaky, to avoid being seen by his colleagues in the Pharisees, or something to that effect. However, I had one other idea this morning: Perhaps Nicodemus worked late that night, or even many nights. He may have been a workaholic. Many men and women face this in their careers. Do we have to assume that Nicodemus used the cover of night on purpose? Why do we often assume the worst of people in the Bible and in life? Whatever the reason, Nicodemus approached Jesus after dark to speak with our Lord. Jesus may not have been available until then or the reason may simply be that Nicodemus was indeed trying to sneak around, trying to get a little more evidence and training under cover of night as it were. Nicodemus greeted Jesus with the traditional honor due a traveling teacher, "Rabbi", and then included a group.

"We all know..." Who is this group that knows about Jesus? Is it the group of those who had begun to trust in Jesus, but that Jesus knew could not be trusted yet? Is Nicodemus referring to the Jewish religious leaders or the Pharisees? Wouldn't that have changed the Gospels and Acts! Nicodemus may have been a leader of an underground group of Christians, perhaps even the first house church as we call these small groups now. A house church is a small group of believers who meet in someones house to worship together; the main reason being to avoid persecution from a government or ruler, but other reasons exist as well. Nicodemus may have been seeking something to bring back to the group, a bit of wisdom from the master. One thing we can read is that Nicodemus was among those who recognized the Messiah by his miraculous signs.

Nicodemus had examined Jesus from afar. He gathered evidence before making his approach to Jesus. Nicodemus may have been a first century scientist or private investigator; he had to know the facts by gathering evidence. Later, even the non-believing Jewish leaders would admit that Jesus did many miraculous signs. Nicodemus read the signs correctly as proof of Jesus being the Messiah foretold in the Scripture. But the question remains for us: How much did Nicodemus believe? Did he, like many at the time, expect Jesus to come as a conquering messiah who would immediately drive the Roman occupation army (and the hated imperial tax collectors) out of Israel? Did Nicodemus fear losing his credibility and position should Jesus be found to be a fraud? What did Nicodemus expect to learn from Jesus?

Praise God that Jesus was sent to do more than just "teach us" as Nicodemus said. At this point, Nicodemus seems to have arrived as a learner, but will that prove to be the case? Nicodemus has not yet asked a question, but like us, he probably has many in mind ready to go for his first meeting with Jesus. What kind of question will this man of high position ask of Jesus. Surely we can expect something special from this educated and learned man! We'll see tomorrow!

Have a wonderful and peaceful day!


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Nicodemus - August 24, 2010

Good Tuesday morning! And what a difference a day makes, we are about 25° cooler this morning from yesterday at this time. The autumn cold fronts are starting to invade the heat of summer; autumn is not far away now. Praise the Lord for the new day! Now why is that so much easier to say on a nice, cool morning with little wind? Many things affect us in this world, and even though Christ lives in our hearts through his Holy Spirit, we are still in this physical world and we don't like the weather when it is too cold or too hot. Of course, too hot and too cold are relative to the person and the season. Time to begin the next chapter in the Gospel of John!

There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. (John 3:1)

So after I gave you that introduction yesterday to the great third chapter of John, is this all you get for this morning? Yes, but there is more here than meets the eye. As a Jewish religious leader AND a Pharisee, Nicodemus was one of the national leaders. Today, the same person here in the U.S. would be both a senator with a doctorate of law, and a member of the High Council of Churches (if we had such a thing). While the nation of Israel was under Roman occupation at the time, the man was still a powerful political and religious leader. So if this man knows so much about Jewish religious law, why is he coming to Jesus? We'll find that out soon enough, but for now we have this player introduced: Nicodemus, a man near the top of the social, political, and religious structure. Probably he was well-to-do financially at the very least if not wealthy. Nicodemus probably came from a good family and knew all the other important people, both Roman and Jewish, in the nation of Israel. On the other side, Jesus is at this time a poor, wandering teacher. Why would these two ever meet?

For one thing, we know that Jesus has performed several miracles as of this time. John mentions the miraculous signs Jesus had done during the Passover celebration and tells the story of the wedding in Cana. Jesus is gaining a following, though they cannot all be trusted, and his fame is spreading. We also know that John the Baptist has already had a confrontation with the Jewish religious leader's assistants, and that the religious leaders themselves had demanded a sign from Jesus after he cleared the Temple. Nicodemus may simply be investigating the news of this new teacher, or he may have a deeper need. How much did Nicodemus know about Jesus already? That answer tomorrow, but for today: Here he is: Nicodemus, we know from this account that he existed at the time of Jesus and held a high position in Jewish life. Was Nicodemus much like the other Jewish leaders who had demanded what right or authority Jesus had to clear the Temple, or will we find something different in this man of the Pharisees? We have much to look forward to the John chapter 3. Enjoy the journey!


Monday, August 23, 2010

Human Nature in Common - August 23, 2010

Good Monday morning! Somehow it is always more difficult to put 'good' in front of Monday than it is for Friday. While I don't hold an 8-5 job like many of you, I still have the occasional Monday too. The morning today is just too warm and wet, the mosquitoes loved it and their movable feast, but I wanted to do nothing but complain. Hmm, what blessings can I count this morning to set against all that bothers me? I was able to get up and go for a walk this morning; many in Pakistan and China must go for a swim if their house is even livable after the floods. A group of miners in Chile are still alive but may have to wait up to 120 days for rescue; I am not trapped in the dark far underground. Those are only two of the many situations people find themselves in this morning that I would consider worse off than my own situation. Perhaps I don't have so much to complain about after all!

This morning, we find Jesus not trusting the belief of many. Today's verse confirms something we might even have come to realize on our own.

No one needed to tell him [Jesus] what mankind is really like. (John 2:25)

Our Creator knows how it is with us. Our tendency to complain, and the lusts of the flesh that get in the way of constant worship. Jesus also knew that this fallen world would cause us no end of grief in this lifetime. Jesus also knows the worst parts of human nature. The tendency we all have to fall away or give up on what is best for us, whether it is physical exercise and good health, or the falling away from obedience to the commandments of God. Jesus brings us the Good News about eternal life in Him, and even after years of belief and faith we still have the urge to doubt his words. Faith and belief in Jesus are two qualities that we must work out on a daily basis. Belief in that which is not seen is not easy for any of us. The long-time minister of the big church in America will have just as much trouble as the Christ-one in a small house in China. The leader of many believers in India will have the same difficulty on a bad day that a farmer in England will have on his bad days. We all have that human nature in common; regardless of what political leaders want us to believe about people in far lands.

Therefore, now that we all have that human nature in common; is there any hope for mankind? Funny you should ask. This verse we read today states the problem that Jesus is going to take up in Chapter 3. The third chapter of John is one of the chapters of the Bible that everyone should read and meditate upon thoroughly. The central good news of the Good News is stated in 3:16. The way to eternal life is stated by Jesus in this chapter. The method the Holy Spirit will use to fix the problem in today's verse is discussed in Chapter 3. Perhaps more sermons, books, and devotionals have been spoken and written about something in John 3 than on any other part of the Bible. No one needed to tell Jesus what we are all like, but Jesus did need to tell us how we can be saved. Chapter 3 of John has just what we need.

Stand by for the Good News!


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Don't Trust Us - August 21, 2010

Good Saturday morning! We have some friendly breezes this morning, I'm not sure if the wind is too much for the RC boys, but it does help cool the homes. Good news for today, our pastor does not live in a hut, and from a visit to his backyard I could tell that he also enjoys indoor plumbing. Contrary to rumor, there is no cave of wisdom in his backyard either, apparently he dispenses pastoral wisdom in his church office. We can have some odd preconceived notions when we don't know the true situation. If you have never been to someones dwelling place, you have no idea what to expect, but somehow we still arrive full of some guesses and thoughts that apparently come to fill the void caused by ignorance. The people of Israel had some expectations ready for Messiah when he showed up. As Jesus began performing miraculous signs, they began to trust in him. However, their trust was shallow it seems as today we learn that Jesus wasn't very impressed by their faith.

But Jesus didn't trust them, because he knew human nature. (John 2:24)

The human nature that Jesus knew about is the result of Adam's fall. We call it the sin nature, the flesh, or original sin, but the end result is that we cannot be trusted. Some of those who had began to trust in Jesus in yesterday's verse would fall away from trusting and believing in Jesus over time. Others would turn completely against Jesus and be among those hollering for his crucifixion near the end of his life. A few would remain faithful to the end. Jesus knew what had happened to the glorious creation God had made in Eden. We are advised to recommit to Jesus daily. This advice comes from the many pastors and teachers who have daily experience with our sin nature. I cannot help but think of how it must have saddened Jesus to see those who would later turn against him. The first step toward that hate may have been the very next morning when one or two of those who had began to trust in Jesus had a little doubt creep in. Perhaps it was as simple as a feeling, "If that Jesus is the Messiah, why don't I feel perfect today?"

We have a tendency to give into and harbor doubts in our minds. Each day we must turn back to Jesus by reading His word, the Bible. Our human nature will fight against the Holy Spirit and his cleansing work in our lives. Jesus could see the war going on in those who had started to trust in him, but still he did not force anyone to believe. The coming of sin into this world gave everyone a choice. How do you choose today? Have you began to trust in Jesus? Choose to believe each day, and trust in our Lord Jesus to save you and provide for you each and every day. The flesh wants to trust in many worldly things, but we choose to trust in God!

Enjoy a peaceful Saturday in Christ!


Friday, August 20, 2010

Something New has Arrived! - August 20, 2010

Good Friday morning! The cat is getting distracted by a noisy bird outside making it hard for him to complete his morning grooming. What distracts you and me in this world? Okay, that is too broad of a question; we might be here for days trying to answer that! In this world we are easily distracted. Something new comes along and we get distracted from the old stuff and want to check out this new thing. But how long do we follow the new thing until we are distracted by something else and the new thing now becomes the cast off old thing? Jesus had arrived in Jerusalem at the Passover. He had begun his ministry with marvelous signs. Jesus had become that new thing. People were interested and as we will read today, some had begun to trust in this new man.

Because of the miraculous signs Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many began to trust in him. (John 2:24)

Jesus had already done some things that told people something new had arrived. But the people were probably reminded of something old from their Scriptures. Jesus may have been seen as the new prophet in town. The people probably forgot that the old prophets often said things that the people didn't want to hear. Jesus arrived and the people found their latest distraction. On the other hand, we can see the start of something great. People began to trust in him, including the disciples as we know they had much to learn at this time. Among those who began to trust in Jesus must have been at least a few who would remain faithful. We know from the parable of the seeds that some of these who had begun to trust would soon be distracted by some other new thing. Their hearts were like the thin, rocky soil where the plant came up, but soon died from the hot sun and lack of good soil. What about those that remained faithful?

The early Christians who believed in Jesus from the beginning became our spiritual ancestors. In time, many of those early Christians would be scattered to the far nations as Rome persecuted the early church. All of them worked to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ, some through the spoken word, others wrote Gospels and letters, others supported those on missions, very much like we do today. We can tell that Jesus began planting his seeds right away from the miraculous signs referred to in today's verse. The seeds soon sprouted and grew as many began to trust in him. From among those seeds that fell on the good soil, we have disciples like John, Peter, and James who spread the Good News. We also have supporters of the Word like Mary Magdalene, Lazarus, and Martha who gave and worked to help other 'seeds' grow in Christ. As Jesus began the planting, others would work for the harvest, and still others would plant more seed.

It is interesting to think that at this time as Jesus had just started to plant that new garden of believers, a man from Tarsus had probably not yet heard of Jesus or his new ministry. We know that later on Saul of Tarsus would come running with a big hoe and try to eradicate what he thought was a bunch of new weeds in God's original garden. Saul would not recognize this new Gospel Garden until Jesus grabbed his attention on the road to Damascus. What a miraculous change Jesus made in Saul! We too have the seed planted in our hearts. Give glory to God this morning for his miraculous work in each of us.

Have a great and joyous weekend!


Thursday, August 19, 2010

After He was What? - August 19, 2010

Good Thursday morning! Up the hill at 0530 to wait on the sunrise, camera in hand - down the hill at 0550, lightning in the area. By the way, the peak time for the sunrise is now just before 0600, not 0530. The heat tells us that it is very much still summer, but the daylight is starting to look more like fall. In either case, we still have a month of summer left on the calendar, and yesterday was too hot for me. A little whining in the morning is not going to spoil the day, but I do hope we can leave the triple digit temps behind us for the year.

After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered he had said this, and they believed both the Scriptures and what Jesus had said. (John 2:22)

Whoops, this verse just gave away the entire story! We haven't even finished the second chapter of John's gospel and we already know the main character is going to die, that he will be raided from the dead, and that the disciples had some doubts about both the Scriptures and whether Jesus was the Messiah. If you firmly believe that Jesus is the Messiah, you won't be doubting what he said. If you believe what the Scripture said about the Messiah and that Jesus is that person, then you have no problem believing the Scripture. We are shown in one verse that John's gospel is not going to be a thriller that leaves us wondering if the main character gets to live happily ever after. We can read in today's verse that Jesus does indeed live happily ever after dying. Eh? The writer has already given away the ending, but what's this about "after he was raised from the dead?" That is a potent statement to write. Even Snoopy's famous novel could be changed in interesting ways:

"It was a dark and stormy night. But after he was raised from the dead, he realized that he had never seen a more beautiful night."

The whole tone of the writing changes. The very thought of what happens after death is foreign to us. We can't see to that time. Actually we can't even see tomorrow, but we have a much better chance of imagining tomorrow than we do the day immediately following our death. If you work in a cubicle in the corporate world, you can probably imagine way too much of what tomorrow will look like. I apologize for that vision, you probably didn't want a bucket of gloom dumped on your head already this morning. Come back to that first clause in today's verse, I can't stop thinking about it. Just a simple 'after he was raised from the dead...' seems to hang in your mind. If you didn't expect such a thing in a novel, that little group of words would tend to bring your reading up short. For a person reading the Gospel of John for the first time, this verse might seem like a rope strung across a jungle trail about ankle high. Reading through the wedding at Cana and then about Jesus clearing the temple, the reader gets an impression of this Jesus character. But then verse 2:22 comes along and reading right through it, 'wham', the reader figuratively sprawls across that rope and plants a face in the turf. What do you mean, "After he was raised from the dead?"

A person might think he would have to read in Acts or at least the end chapters of John to get to the parts about Jesus dying and being raised up from the dead, but no, it's right here near the end of Chapter 2. After we get over the shock of the first little declaration in this verse, we get to see some of what Jesus' resurrection accomplished. His disciples were transformed from doubt to belief in Jesus and what he said. The disciples no longer doubted the prophecies in Scripture or the application those prophecies had to the Messiah. Of course, we immediately want to know how we can be raised from the dead too. We'll have to be patient as we read verse by verse each day.

Give glory to God on this fine day!


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Temple of His Own - August 18, 2010

Good Wednesday morning! Do you ever receive counsel from your Christian brothers and sisters? You should, why else would Jesus want two or three to be gathered together? We can worship and pray alone; we can worship and pray in small and large groups, but sometimes we need to gather together in our small groups to advise each other. I felt a strong need to do this yesterday, and God provided me with Christian counselors. We don't and can't know everything on our own. We won't know everything in a group of two or three either, but we have this promise from Jesus: "For where two or three gather together because they are mine, I am there among them." (Matt 18:20) This is not to mean that when we are alone, we are alone and without Jesus. The Holy Spirit is with us everywhere, alone or in a group. However, something special is going to happen when two or three (I don't believe Jesus meant this to be an upper limit) gather together in the name of Christ. Always be ready to give and accept counsel in the name of Jesus among your brothers and sisters in Christ.

I realize that I'm not giving any details about why I needed this counsel, but I must maintain a confidence for a bit before I let you know what happened. Please be patient. Speaking of gathering in groups though: in our little town of Sidney, school begins today. It's hard to even say a muted "hooray", and I am not among those going to school! May God's blessings go with the children on their way to another long school year this morning.

Did you ever use a word with different meanings? We all do; sometimes by mistake and other times with intent. English is famous, or infamous, for having many words with multiple definitions. The language is so bad that we have not only denotations, dictionary defined meanings, but connotations, or words used with a popular meaning that is not listed in the dictionary. We know now that Jesus referred to his body as a temple, but to the Jewish leaders the Temple meant the big building where they offered the sacrifices (and fleeced the foreign Jews arriving for Passover, but that's another story). Today, John gives us an explanation for Jesus' bold statement a couple of verses back.

But by "this temple," Jesus meant his body. (John 2:21)

I took the liberty of finding a few other verses about the Temple in the scriptures this morning. The first verse is one of those that reminds us of our place in this world. We often build fancy churches and temples expecting God to be pleased. If we are referring to the effort and giving that goes into the church building, He may very well be pleased with our work. But if we expect God to come into a building just because we spent a lot of money and made it extravagant, we might want to check our motives. Even Solomon's temple, probably among the most beautiful buildings ever built, was abandoned by God when the people of Israel abandoned their Creator and God.

This is what the LORD says: "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Could you ever build me a temple as good as that? Could you build a dwelling place for me? - Isaiah 66:1

The second verse speaks of the unbelief many nations and peoples had after the Lord allowed the Babylonians to destroy his Temple. The Lord speaks of the future time when all nations will acknowledge the God of Israel and the Temple.

"...And since my Temple will remain among them forever, the nations will know that I, the LORD, have set Israel apart for myself to be holy." - Ezekiel 37:28

I will shake all the nations, and the treasures of all the nations will come to this Temple. I will fill this place with glory, says the LORD Almighty. - Haggai 2:7

...which brings us to the third verse where a prophecy is made about the treasures that will be brought up to the Lord's Temple during the thousand year reign of Christ. And finally...

But the LORD is in his holy Temple. Let all the earth be silent before him. - Habakkuk 2:20

One day we will all be silent for one massive worship service, probably the first of many, where the entire world will worship our God in his holy Temple. What a day to look forward to!

Have a great new day in Christ Jesus!


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Humble and Gentle at Heart - August 17, 2010

Good Tuesday morning! I am glad to be safe in the hands of Almighty God this morning! Yew, 92% humidity this morning, but a temp of only 54ºF so the morning is fairly comfortable, just a little dampish. That word may not translate very well since it isn't an actual word in English either. I took the walk slowly this morning, and challenged myself to take photos of whatever I found. The burrs, stickers, and clingers are out in force as the weeds have reached maturity and taken to seed. While snapping a few photos, I thought of how many of these things don't hurt most animals. Either their skin or hide is too tough for the sticker to penetrate, or the animal has enough fur to simply give the sticker a ride for a while before it drops off with normally shed fur. My cat likes to eat some stickers; I can't imagine the pain of putting one of those spiny, sharp things in my mouth. A photo of just a few of these barbed terrors is attached this morning. The photo was taken over by the college, but you can go up to the E-Free church and get as many of these as you want. If you want one for your yard, I can bring it right over too.

The amazing ability of just one seed, especially a weed, to populate a yard is something we can only give glory to God for designing. If but one of these little things gets a chance to grow in your grass, you will be engaged in sticker warfare for years. The Jewish leaders thought they saw a weed in their "lawn", and they immediately tried to stamp it out. With one of his first actions in Jerusalem, Jesus had stuck the Jewish leaders much like a thorn pokes our flesh. First they tried to make him look like a crazy man with his far-out statement:

"What!" they exclaimed. "It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple, and you can rebuild it in three days?" (John 2:20)

Never mind their ability to destroy it in three days, the Jewish leaders simply made an assumption on that part and moved right into doubting what Jesus had said. Their exclamation is one much like, "Are you crazy?" This is a common method of 'winning' an argument in many talk show and radio conversations. Taking the statement made by your opponent, you add just the right amount of incredulity and sarcastic volume, and serve it back to him as a question. Of course, such a method doesn't disprove a point any more than raising your eyebrows or making a funny look at the person. If you want to learn other methods that accomplish just as little, turn to any television talk show for a lesson in silly looks, incredulous stares, and verbal abuse. We feel the temptation to use these same methods during arguments, but is that how a Christian should act? In Matthew 11:29, Jesus tells us a little about himself: "Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls."

If our risen Lord and Savior is humble and gentle at heart, and we are to be like him, then we have learned how to act. Trying to make a person look bad through making fun of their words is not the way to act like Jesus. When Jesus argued with the Jewish religious experts, he often started right in their own scriptures. Even when speaking with the devil, Jesus didn't resort to the kind of verbal attacks we see in our television talk shows. If Jesus didn't act that way with those who opposed him, then we need to follow his example. A gentle answer might be difficult in many situations, especially at some workplaces these days or if you go into politics, but we are to follow our Lord.

Someone may use this very method when you tell them about our risen Savior, remember to be humble and gentle at heart.


Monday, August 16, 2010

All Three Days, or Just a Few Seconds? - August 16, 2010

Good Monday morning! Are you waiting for a miraculous sign today? We can find ourselves slow to action or even stopped altogether while waiting on some sign from God. The question to ask might be: "Did God promise a sign or did I just ask for one?" Any of us can find an excuse to wait and other times we are told to wait. In either case waiting can be difficult in this time of fast everything. The world seems to rush by us as we stand waiting. A lot of people in the world of today are looking for a little time of waiting. Of course, none of them want the waiting that comes from losing their jobs. What happens if the fear of losing a job is superseded by a greater fear: that of staying in a job that has become a terrible burden?

We often wonder if trusting in God means that we stay and tough it out. However, I would remind you of the way in which God spread the Good News through the persecution of the early church. Believers had to flee for their lives. No doubt many gave up their homes, furniture they couldn't take with them, and yes, even their jobs. If you are called to go to another town or state because your job has become too much for you to bear, go with confidence in a great God. If you must move because of a lost job, trust in God and don't pine for the things you are leaving behind. If you lose a job and are told to stay put... then stay put and trust in God! None of the options may seem easy or even peaceful to us at the time. We still have that urge to trust in our own knowledge and what we think we know. God may want us to set aside human wisdom and trust everything to him alone. We may be in for a surprise when God answers or shows us something that is completely different than anything we expected in our human wisdom.

A bunch of religious leaders got the surprise of their lives when Jesus gave them an answer to their demand for a sign:

"All right," Jesus replied. "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." (John 2:19)

At the time, Jesus was standing either in or near the massive temple built by Zerubbabel and remodeled by Herod. The religious leaders probably had no idea how to destroy the Temple in three days, much less have someone rebuild it that quickly. My Bible study notes show that Herod's contractors had been remodeling for 46 years by this time and still had not completed the work. We'll leave alone the union/non-union jokes for today. We get the impression though that this was no small building. Jesus' statement would undoubtedly have stunned the religious leaders. We'll get their reaction in tomorrow's verse. However, when Jesus makes a statement such as this one; you are faced with that same choice - believe in him or call him a liar. Rebuild the temple in three days?

You might imagine a line of trucks with huge pre-fabricated wall sections lined up and ready; an experienced building crew ready to go, and a spot on the temple mount cleared. The crews check their watches and the first truck rolls under the giant cranes to begin the construction of a new temple. Can they assemble the blocks and sections in three days? Perhaps, but that isn't building a temple in three days; not when you take into account the months of construction going on in the factories beforehand. Yes, with the modern methods, factories, and machinery, we might, and that's a big maybe, be able to assemble a temple in three days. Back in Jesus' time, it would have taken hundreds, perhaps thousands, of workers, probably slaves, to even attempt a building of such a monumental building project. Did you realize that much of what we tend to venerate in Rome, Greece, Egypt, and Babylon was built on the blood and sweat of slaves? Jesus didn't have a hundred thousand slaves standing by with precast blocks of stone; all prepared on wagons with horses and oxen ready to move into place. Nope, he stood there in a simple robe with only a few disciples standing behind him. The disciples might even have been sneaking glances at the nearest dark alley to jump into should Jesus start asking them if anyone knew how to build a temple. Had the religious leaders questioned the disciples right then, one or two might have denied our Lord or made a reference to his unstable state of mind. The first disciples faced the same question we do: believe in Jesus or don't.

In Genesis, we can read how God separated the waters beneath the sky so that dry ground appeared; then he created all the plants and told them to produce seeds after their own kind: "And evening passed and morning came, marking the third day." God created the continents by moving the oceans into one place and then created all the plants... in one day. A temple? I would guess that would be about 5 seconds worth of work for God, if he even needed that long! As soon as you choose to believe in Jesus as the Son of God, you have no problem believing that he could raise up one magnificent temple in three days; he created the heavens and the earth in one.

Have a beautiful Monday in Christ Jesus!


Saturday, August 14, 2010

You are Miraculous! - August 14, 2010

Good Saturday morning! A nice and cool morning to start the day! The cool mornings may not be here to stay just yet, we are only at the middle of August after all. The kids do have to go to school next Wednesday though; that just seems too soon to me, probably not soon enough for all the moms looking forward to a break. How soon is too soon anyway? We can't seem to agree on that in this life. For some 6 am is way too soon to get up, for others that same time is called 'sleeping in'. We have different opinions on when to arrive at work, early or late, and when to arrive for an appointment. We just don't agree on a lot of things. Someone was most likely going to be offended by Jesus clearing the merchants from the Temple. Today, Jesus gets a question that many of us have heard in our lives, especially at work or in the military.

But the Jewish leaders demanded, "What are you doing? If God gave you authority to do this, show us a miraculous sign to prove it." (John 2:18)

That "What are you doing?" question also arrives as, "Who said you could do that?"; "Who gave you the authority to do that?"; or even, "What do you think you're doing?". The person asking the question is surprised or offended in some way so he or she asks a question that has an obvious answer. The Jewish leaders could tell quite well what Jesus had been doing. Often a person asking about your authority to do something already knows whether you have the authority or not. In the military, we often ran into the question of authority. If you did something that overstepped your rank, a person of higher rank might get offended. The correctness of what you had done often didn't matter as much as the question of your level of authority. Yes, stupid things did happen such as putting something back the way it was simply because the person ordering the improvement didn't have the necessary rank to order the improvement. The Jewish leaders wanted to know if Jesus had exceeded his authority. The question to start their investigation seems to indicate that they had already decided on that issue, but we'll let Jesus answer them in the next verse.

We believe in Jesus as the Son of God, the Messiah, and our Lord. To us the question of his authority is answered in that Jesus has the very highest authority. However, the Jewish leaders had decided to oppose Jesus and didn't believe that he was the long awaited Messiah. "Show us a miraculous sign" comes from what the religious leaders and others expected of their Messiah. The leaders of the time expected a conquering hero who would come in with signs and wonders sending the Romans running back home. Jesus, as we know from the other Gospels, didn't conquer anyone, and his miraculous signs, of which he did many, were ignored willfully by the Jewish leaders. In fact there may have been more Romans who believed in Jesus than believers among the Jewish leaders. Jesus is Messiah, but he did not fit the wishes of many of the leaders looking for their own version of Messiah. Accepting the Messiah, Jesus, just as he is proved difficult for many while he walked the earth, and many find it difficult even today. Jesus gave us the authority to spread the good news of his grace. Do we have a miraculous sign to prove it? You are born again are you not? That Jesus could take sinners such as you and me, and make us into beloved children of God is certainly miraculous!

Enjoy the day in Christ!


Friday, August 13, 2010

Rememories! - August 13, 2010

Good Friday morning! I am so slow in getting going this morning, and yet I have accomplished quite a bit. I went out with B 'n B last night for a steak and kept hitting that iced tea. Just a bunch of hard-core party fools, that us! I did get some nice photos of the sunset after dinner. That breeze this morning reminded me that autumn is coming around these parts. Not that the wind was below freezing or anywhere close to that, but after walking many mornings this summer, the breeze definitely had a coolness to it that spoke of change. In what other ways are we reminded of experiences in the past? A song might remind you of a special time in your life, or perhaps not. I named many of the 70's songs to Burt as they played on Dude's radio last night, but none of them seemed to trip any particular memories for him. Of course, he may not have heard me at all...

Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: "Passion for God's house will consume me." (John 2:17) with reference to Psalms 69:9

The disciples remembered scripture because they had studied the scriptures. We may not always remember a Bible verse right away; something that a person does might trigger our memories though. Jesus was passionate about his Father's temple. While I have assumed anger in the actions of Jesus in clearing the Temple, I need to remember his passion. Jesus didn't like - we would say that he couldn't stand - the misuse and abuse of the Temple that was going on. Jesus' passion overflowed when he saw the moneychangers and livestock merchants in the Temple itself buying, selling, and otherwise doing commerce in a place of worship. Proverbs, I believe, has a verse that says something like: There is a time and a place for everything under the sun.

We have time and the places to conduct our work or business, but in church is not one of them. We have heard this before of course, but we need the reminder from time to time that church is a time to gather and worship God. We don't make business contacts or hand out our business cards in church or arrange for meetings because we'll see 'Bob' in church. If the pastor tells us to call him during the week to talk about something to do with business, we don't correct him on the spot, we call him... after all the church IS his business!

Have a great and prayerful weekend in Christ!


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Chasing out the Thieves - August 12, 2010

Good Thursday morning! We are still expecting a cool down tomorrow after one last day of hot. I'm ready; bring on the cooler days! Did you enjoy the circus last night? I don't know if the performance was enjoyable or not since I wasn't there! I did get quite a few photos of the tent raising in the morning. The kids seemed to enjoy it, and isn't that who circuses are for? As an adult, I noticed other things about the tent, like a certain road-weariness about it. I would imagine that poor tent has been set up, taken down, and moved hundreds of times. The white stripes were more like brown stripes, and the blue stripes didn't have that sharp color we would see on a new tent. Some days we might feel a bit road weary too. We don't get a new body each year; our old one just gets more road weary with each passing season. Now with that cheerful thought to spur you on to work this morning, let's see if Jesus is really angry yet.

Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, "Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father's house into a marketplace!" (John 2:16)

The anger is not out of control at all. While he chased the cattle and sheep out, the doves he did not chase away or smash their cages. A cow or a sheep can be caught, they would not be able to wander far inside the tight streets of Jerusalem, but had Jesus chased the doves out in the same way the birds would have flown away. Jesus was not anti-commerce, just against doing commerce in a place of worship. Whatever corruption or lax attitude caused the selling in the Temple to start, some of the merchants may have simply been making a living. Jesus didn't destroy their product by letting the doves go. His anger was not the rage that destroys all in its path, but a controlled anger to accomplish some purpose. I have been reminded of Revelation 12, where the Great Dragon is forced out of heaven and comes down to Earth in great anger.

The Bible uses the word anger to describe what the Great Dragon comes with, not rage. Is this the same word used to describe the actions of Jesus? Actually, no. There is no mention of anger in the case of Jesus and his clearing of the Temple. I looked back to the accounts in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and found the same thing. The Bible doesn't use anger to describe what Jesus is doing, we seem to assume that from the whip and the overturning of tables and chairs. Was Jesus humming a joyful little tune while he drove out the livestock and scattered the money then? A little variation on that old hymn but with a twist, "Bringing in the sheaves, chasing out the thieves, the priests won't be rejoicing when their money leaves..."? Perhaps he was; we don't know for sure from the stories in the Gospels. I apologize for the little hymn variation; please don't sing those words if your church sings that one on Sunday.

The first three gospels tell of a second clearing of the Temple, while John wrote of the first time. The events are similar, but no anger is mentioned in either case. I have written several times of the Temple clearing, but today the Holy Spirit reminded me that anger is not actually mentioned. Tomorrow, we will see what word is used in reference to Jesus' attitude in this action, but it isn't 'anger'. Once again we see where at times we can be caught assuming something about Jesus. Is the assumption of anger incorrect? Perhaps not; the word we will see tomorrow could be the basis for a righteous anger in clearing the Temple. In a similar situation, you or I would be angry, and perhaps that is why we tend to assume that Jesus was too. This one verse at a time per day does give me a lot of time to think over what is actually written in the Bible and to question some of the assumptions I have made or in the case of this story, have received from Bible teachers over the years. We should question our assumptions about the Bible and read with an awareness in Christ as we grow closer to Him.

Have a peaceful day in Christ!


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Little Anger - August 11, 2010

Good Wednesday morning! The weather folks promise just a couple more days of heat before we catch a big break in the weather conditions. All we can say is... we'll see! Who do you trust in the weather, in your job, in all of life? Major changes in our lives require new levels of trust in whatever or whoever we are trusting in. If you trust in your own abilities, you will find many of them diminishing with age. What do you trust in then? We may have found our trust placed in a job, in money, or even in a government. All of these can fail or, as in the case of some priests back in the day, become corrupt. Yesterday we read the setup verse where Jesus came to the Temple and found a gang of thieves stealing from the people. Today, what's he gonna do about it?

Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changer's coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. (John 2:15)

Whoa! The Lord is really angry! A person reading this for the first time might wonder how we can excuse this. After all didn't Jesus just get mad and destroy stuff? If we read carefully we can see that even in anger Jesus didn't actually destroy anything. While the anger burned within him, he used it to teach a lesson in what the Temple was for, and what it was not. Tables were turned over, coins scattered, and livestock driven out, but nothing was destroyed or even hurt. Also, when we take the step of believing in Jesus, we realize just who he is. As the Son of God, it is his place to excuse or not excuse our actions, not the other way around. We receive forgiveness from Jesus for our sins, but in his actions there was nothing to forgive.

Jesus will remind us in another verse to be angry, but do not sin. In a rage we can destroy something that we later regret. That destruction may be a sin, especially if the object belonged to someone else. However, anger alone, in particular the righteous anger toward injustice, is not sin. If a pastor or elder storms into your church and starts throwing pews over and yelling about sin in the church, he has probably seen something that is in need of correction. With his anger he will have your full attention. And most likely no one will sleep through that sermon! You might have a similar outburst of anger should you discover a sin in your congregation that has been left uncorrected over time. Be angry, but controlled, in your anger. The unchecked and uncontrolled state of rage has no place in our fellowship, but anger just might. Tomorrow we will see how Jesus' anger was never out of control in this action.

Have a wonderful and awesome day in Christ!


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Can't Buy a New Jesus! - August 10, 2010

Good Tuesday morning! Though it may be hard to believe in the heat of the day we did in fact hit 59º this morning, a sign of the cooler mornings to come. The news we read and view is much like that; we see the heat of the times and that makes it easy to forget that the signs of Christ's return are like the brief cool morning. I pray that you were able to get out and enjoy the morning today. The horses along my route actually stayed to let me take some photos this morning. This is surprising in the light of how bad I smell by the time I dowse myself in Deep Woods Off® and then hoof it up and over the big hill before I get over to their pasture. That reminds me, I look forward to our Tuesday morning breakfast in a couple of hours! (I'll take a shower first...really!)

The devotional from the Hour of Power seemed appropriate to the verse this morning. This one is the start of one of the familiar stories from John: Jesus cleansing the temple for the first time.

In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money. (John 2:14)

This is one of those "Uh oh!" verses that speak of a storm to come. Like the big clouds gathering on the horizon last night (praise God for the good rain we had!) we can see that the storm is about to break. If the verse had begun with something like, "In the town square he saw..." or "In the country market...", but no, it starts with the Temple. We live many years later and still we know that commerce in the Temple is just wrong. Imagine if Jesus walked into your church sanctuary right now and saw a big flea market going on. Those who believe in Jesus would give a startled "Uh oh!" and immediately head for the door. We would know that our Lord is about become very angry.

Somehow over the years since another cleansing of the Temple, the Jews of the time had once again fallen into allowing the Temple to be misused. Whether a priest started it or a corrupt king, the Temple was now open to buying and selling in the court of the Gentiles. Not only this, but we know from other scripture that the money exchangers and merchants charged exorbitant rates to the Jews coming from far away. A racket had sprung up where a priest would refuse to accept the sacrificial animal brought from home and then take a cut of the 'approved' animal bought at an absurd price right there in the Temple. This was surely a part of Jesus' righteous anger.

It is interesting that the one, Jesus, who would become the only acceptable sacrifice for all sin was refused by these same corrupted priests. Of course there was no way to buy a new Jesus in the Temple at any price. We must accept the one God has sent; no other sacrifice will serve as propitiation for our sins.

Enjoy the wonderful heat of August...agh, that's even hard to write. Have a great day in Christ and look forward to his return!


Monday, August 09, 2010

No Humor? - August 9, 2010

Good Monday morning! Once more I greet you in a humorous mood. Ach! This is a devotional, we must be serious and calm! Why? Must we always be so serious when studying God's Word? Let's check today's verse for abject seriousness.

It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went to Jerusalem. (John 2:13)

Hmm, well this verse does have a couple of serious subjects. The Passover celebration was for an event that had happened in Egypt, the passing over of the angel of death. You will recall from Exodus that the first born offspring of the Egyptians and even their cattle was slain in a night of terrible woe. The Israelites placed lamb's blood on their door posts as a sign for that dreadful angel to pass over their homes. As a part of an annual celebration of this event, every Jewish family was to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Jesus fulfilled the law and did his duty which is a serious matter. Do these serious subjects mean that we are to put aside all humor in studying the Word? If you need to do so to be respectful and learn, then yes, you probably should get into a mood or mode to allow you to come prayerfully to God's word each day. On the other hand, I don't personally believe that Jesus was without humor in all that he said and did. Perhaps that is trying to put to much of myself into God's Son. But if that is true, then where did my sense of humor come from?

Like our other emotions, humor or laughter can be misdirected or misplaced or even misused, but that does not make humor evil or sinful. Love can be directed at the wrong object, such as loving money, or even at a person in a wrong way, such as falling in love with another man's wife. Humor need not be set aside when studying the Bible; I believe that many of the things we do make God laugh. We don't laugh at God, and I don't believe that God laughs at us, but we can laugh together. We must admit that some of the mistakes we make in this life are just plain funny. Of course, a solemn celebration like the Passover would not be the time or place for humor. Even the Israelites escaping slavery in Egypt would not have found the death of so many first-born children of their overseers to be a laughing matter. We strive to laugh only at the good humor, not at a person's loss of life. We laugh with each other at a barbecue, but we remain composed and respectful for a ceremony. There is a time for the right emotions, and a time to go
where we must. The time had arrived for Jesus to make a trip to Jerusalem.

What time is it for you on this fine day?


Saturday, August 07, 2010

A Family Sort of Verse - August 7, 2010

Good Saturday m...um, oops, afternoon! My fault entirely. When I sat down to write this morning there was nothing in my head to write about. There is, on the other hand, a lot going on in the world. The pictures of Moscow would make most anyone pray for some relief for those folks. Did you realize they are also suffering through some record high temperatures too? While Moscow is covered in fire smoke, Pakistan is practically under water, no one around the Gulf is quite sure where all the oil went, and an island of ice four times larger than Manhattan has taken off from Greenland to float pretty much wherever it pleases. Not sure what it would take to stop a hundred square mile chunk of ice that is half the height of the Empire State building; maybe someone would be kind enough to tow it to the Sahara and water the desert.

So much is going on that we might want to just stay at home with the family. Jesus did something like that just after the wedding in Cana.

After the wedding he went to Capernaum for a few days with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples. (John 2:12)

Not one of those verses that we memorize and put on the wall, but it does say something about Jesus. We read about our Lord's miracles, teachings, debates with the Pharisees, and his prophecies of the end times; but how often do we notice that he made time for his family? No big parade or award show, just a few days with his family and disciples after a stunning miracle in Cana. No doubt after the wedding, while Jesus spent some quality time in Capernaum, the story mill was in high gear talking about that wine at the wedding celebration. Who didn't get mentioned in this? Joseph. What happened to Jesus' earthly father? Often we hear that Joseph may have died before this time. Certainly it is possible. While we expect Mary to have been a young woman at the time of the engagement to Joseph, the Bible doesn't say how old Joseph was. Of course, Joseph didn't have to be much older than Mary when Jesus was born; many accidents and diseases happened to people then just as they do now. Whatever the reason, Joseph has dropped out of the story by the time Jesus begins his miracles and teaching ministry. I wonder how many of us will look up Joseph when we get to Heaven and ask whatever happened to him?

Before we get to Heaven though, we can at least answer those who think Jesus was only divine in nature. Today's verse speaks of a devoted human son spending time with his earthly family and disciples. It's just a family sort of verse! We might say the same thing after a weekend at the lake or a trip to the park, without the disciples part that is. Jesus was the Son of God, but he was also the child of Mary and brother to Jude, James, and his other siblings. Praise God for our divine and human Savior!


Friday, August 06, 2010

A Bit of Wonderful, Please! - August 6, 2010

Good Friday morning! I'm having a good Friday cookie while my Grape Nuts soak up some milk; the cat it seems is trying to ingest himself. Not sure what is bothering him so, but he wants it gone! Speaking of appearances or 'seeming', we seemed to talk rather late last night at our life group meeting, but in truth it wasn't all that late when we finished. It's August and that means we start to notice that the days are getting shorter now. I had to turn on a lamp to read my Bible the past couple of nights, something I didn't need to do in July, and the morning light doesn't seem to get me up quite as early as it did a month ago. For some this is a tough time of the year as summer's light wanes and school time arrives like a long dreaded bit of bad news. I like the approach of autumn, even though we still have over a month to go before it arrives officially.
Jesus gave the first sign of his arrival in our verses for the past few days. The wedding miracle at Cana is his first in his new ministry. I find it interesting that Jesus' first miracle is one so secular in a way. "They are out of wine! Okay, here you go, my finest vintage!" To sum up rather glibly a miracle we don't have the knowledge to do ourselves. I mean, imagine how the soft drink companies would suffer if we could go around changing water into Diet Dr Pepper! Or what if each of us could produce 120 gallons or so of the finest coffee from our water jars at the drop of a hat?

This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him. (John 2:11)

As far as I know, this kind of miracle was never repeated by Jesus or his disciples, and has not been done since in the world. So perhaps this miracle is not so secular as it seems to us. Jesus fulfilled a need with the wine, and honored his mother by taking care of the problem she brought to him. Jesus also showed us his strength by doing something not one of us could do in our own strength. This miracle kicked off Jesus' ministry in a big way. We see from the verse that his disciples believed in him right then. No doubt a few servants did too! I wonder how many others came to believe in, or at least took notice of, Jesus at that time? In reading through the Gospel of John, we certainly come to notice Jesus when we think about this miracle. Turn water into wine? I wouldn't even know how to begin, but I do know who to turn to with a need that is beyond my strength and ability. Trust in Jesus; if he can add some wine to a wedding, he can certainly add some wonderful to your life!

Have a wonderful Friday!


Thursday, August 05, 2010

A Special Vintage - August 5, 2010

Good Thursday morning! What a nice, sunny, and cool morning it is too! Will the fine August mornings stay with us now, and will the cool August evenings arrive soon? I don't know, and what a privilege it is to say that. Christ has given me the freedom to say, "I don't know!" Wait a minute, you might say, didn't we always have the freedom to say, "I don't know"? Yes, but did you ever want to be caught saying that? No, you felt shame and humiliation because you didn't know the answer. We pursue knowledge in so many ways. Some through school or reading, others through gossip and conversation. We all feel the urge to have the latest knowledge of something, even everything, and yet we never will know as God knows. We even train the children by comparing them to other nations, "You better study hard, the kids in Uberstan go to school 20 hours a day and can perform calculus while standing on their fingertips!" Perhaps you didn't hear something quite that absurd growing up, but I'll bet you heard something along those same lines. I remember hearing something like that more than once in my school years. There is a great freedom in coming to Christ and having the freedom to not know everything. My poor human brain can't hold all that knowledge anyway, or at least I can't recall it when it is needed. What if you do something that goes against the common wisdom, like not trying to know everything all the time? These days we might raise a few eyebrows by sitting everyone down at the table and serving dessert first. The bridegroom in our Bible story is about to get one of those "what is wrong with you?" questions from the master of ceremonies.

"A host always serves the best wine first," he said. "Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!" (John 2:10)

For one thing, this verse should solve the alcoholic/non-alcoholic wine controversy. No one would worry about better grape juice affecting any one's judgement on more grape juice. Wine on the other hand does tend to dull one's mind and taste buds as one drinks too much of it. We can see that the master of ceremonies is impressed with the wine Jesus has made right there in the back room. Of course, Jesus didn't do things poorly in his miracles. He didn't heal one eye of a blind man or make weak wine. People have made up a lot of crazy stories about the Spear of Destiny or the Holy Grail, but can you imagine the silliness that would go on if someone had taken one of those stone jars and bottled 20 or 30 gallons of the wine made by Jesus? Describing it as a unique vintage doesn't do justice to that batch of wine. I wonder how many at the party missed something special because they had already in fact taken too much wine?

...and there it is. Don't get caught up in the 'wine' of the world and miss the very special savior we have in Christ Jesus. We have so much today in entertainment. Soon the entire world will have access to the Internet, but will the message of Jesus be seen in crush of sudden knowledge? One of the great success stories of the devil is in how he has made everyone so busy. Some take pride in their constantly busy schedule. Getting caught up in this busy and distracting world might just cause one of us to miss the special message that Jesus brings to us.

Have a wonderful, and perhaps just a bit slower, day in Christ!


Wednesday, August 04, 2010

A Little Bit of Dread - August 4, 2010

Good Wednesday morning! Mid-week for those of you in the five-day work week. Today is also August 4th, which means that the beginning of school around these parts is only about 15 days away. Now is the time that many a school age child will be waking up with a vague kind of dread as the last days of summer vacation slip away. I feel a shudder from time to time during these days of August, and I don't have to go to school! What does that kind of dread relate to in the adult world? Think about it just a bit and you can usually find something to dread. Whether it is the kind of uncomfortable dread that results from making a mistake at work and wondering when you will be found out, or the full-blown panic of having committed a crime unintentionally due to some law you didn't know about, you have felt some degree of dread in your adult life. Of course, the violation of some minor section of our massive Code of Federal Regulations does not usually result in a visit from the FBI or even in jail time, but our imaginations can supply plenty of things to dread. What about a less serious circumstance, relatively speaking, a social humiliation on an important date? The verse today tells us about someone getting 'called over' sometimes a phrase that carries a little bit of that social dread with it. A boss might call you over during a company party; "What did I do now?", or a parent might call you over during a ball game; "Oh no, Dad's gonna let me have it front of everyone!" Whatever the case, we often dread what we imagine is going to be a humiliating moment.

When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. (John 2:9)

We don't know yet from this verse what the master of ceremonies wants with the bridegroom. This is an important day, we might expect a congratulations or a bit of advice on the bridegroom's new life. In this situation we don't often associate a calling over with that social dread. However, we know that the celebration was about to run out of wine, a serious social mistake on the part of someone; could it be the bridegroom's responsibility to provide the wine and food? Is he now in trouble because of the cups of water Jesus sent out?

Well, the verse does give away the fact that the water is now wine. A miracle has happened and we don't know how Jesus did this from a technical or chemical view. After all making wine usually involves raising grape vines to maturity, pruning vines during the growing seasons, awaiting the ripening of the grapes, and then harvesting the year's grapes. After all of that, the grapes are pressed to extract the juice, the juice is fermented, and the wine is aged some amount of time. Jesus only had minutes, not years, so something out of the ordinary took place from the time the servants filled up the stone water jars until the cup of wine was served to the master of ceremonies. Whatever that something was and in whatever way Jesus made the water into wine in mere moments, the master of ceremonies felt compelled to call over the bridegroom. Did the MC want to chew the bridegroom out over serving inferior wine? Was the wine made by Jesus not aged enough? Certainly a possibility given that the stuff was just water a few moments earlier. We don't yet know. Once more we will have to wait until tomorrow's verse to find out what the MC wants with the bridegroom. Good news or bad?

We may have to wait for another verse now, but we do have some experience with the social dread we have been reading about. The boss doesn't usually wait for the company party to give you bad news about something; he uses the office where he can sit behind his desk to emphasize his authority over you while dressing you down over something he didn't like. Dad might be calling you over to give you a pat on the back for a good play or to pass on some family news that couldn't wait. We don't always get the bad news we dread. The bridegroom might be receiving good news, we'll just have to wait and see.

Have an excellent day in Christ!


Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Set Expectations - August 3, 2010

Good Tuesday morning! Another clammy morning with clouds and humidity. Whatever happened to that infamous High Plains dry air I have heard about? Actually, we prayed long and hard for the drought to end and that appears to have been granted to us. So now we complain about the humidity? You bet, complaining is one of the activities we are too good at doing. In this life we do find a lot to complain about. We live in a world stained by sin and that is going to generate a lot of things that hurt us in some way. How do we fight this urge to whine and complain? Easy, take our eyes off of the source of the problems and look at the one who is the source of life and joy. A few servants looked to Jesus in our verse today, and he gave them some instructions seemingly fraught with peril.

...he said, "Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies." So the servants followed his instructions. (John 2:8)

Did Jesus really just tell the servants to take a cup of water to the master of ceremonies? No doubt the MC would be expecting a cup of wine. If I happened to be one of those servants back then, I might feel a bit of fear in approaching the head man in charge with a cup that didn't meet his expectations. Did you notice a subtle change in what Jesus said though? Yesterday, Jesus clearly said to fill the stone jars with water, but today he says to dip "some" out. Is this change intentional or simply an economy of words? We'll find that out in the succeeding verses, but for today we don't want to miss this little change. Of course the main point is once more that the servants obeyed without question.

We have the same duty to Jesus. Sometimes his instructions may seem to go against all human logic and sense. We don't know why someone might be called from a good paying job to take a missions post in a far country that pays little or nothing in terms of money. We don't know why a pastor might suddenly be called to move to a smaller (or larger) church in another state. We may not know why we feel called to go a certain way or to live and grow right where we are, but we do know that to obey Jesus is best for us in the end. Perhaps one of the servants thought a little, "Oh, dear" to himself when taking that cup to the master of ceremonies. Certainly bringing a cup of lukewarm water to someone expecting wine could cause an embarrassing scene if nothing else. What happened the last time you took a good swallow of water when you expected your favorite soft drink in your glass? Right, you might have spit out perfectly good water because your expectations were set for something flavored and sweet. What will happen when the MC gets that cup? It's kind of frustrating to do this one verse at a time, eh?

Have a great and prosperous day in Christ!


Monday, August 02, 2010

Learn to Obey - August 2, 2010

Good Monday morning! A bit sticky as they say this morning. Like most everyone in the northern hemisphere, we are hoping the air will dry out just a bit in August. You might also be wondering where I have been since I have not written since Friday. This weekend was the county fair here in these parts and I entered six photos; my first fair entries in something like 35 years or so. A couple of photos won purple ribbons, which is good for what amounts to my first time out. Of course the real victory is not in what ribbons were awarded, but in the act of putting my first photos out for public viewing and to be judged. When taking up a creative career, we can become paralyzed with fear over what we imagine people might say about our work. The stories you read about the old writer who wrote 26 novels but never sent any of them off to a publisher might seem a bit far fetched until you come up against that first public showing of something you created. Praise the Lord for the courage he gives to us.

We also hosted the Nebraska division of the Christian Motorcyclists Association at our church on Saturday. I was up and taking photos as they rode in for breakfast on Saturday. I didn't count, but there may have been 100 motorcycles or more there along with quite a few cars and trucks.
The CMA event ran through the weekend along with the fair, rodeo, and town sidewalk sale. We had quite a bit going on this weekend.

Today, I have another of those verses cut in the middle of someones words. This time none other than Jesus himself is speaking, but we will have to find out what he has to say over two days. While it is tempting to use Saturday as an excuse for putting verses 7 and 8 together this morning, I'll stay with the one verse each day method I started with.

Jesus told the servants, "Fill the jars with water." When the jars had been filled, (John 2:7)

Yes, today's verse ends with a comma; something that would make your English teacher shriek or at least make big red marks on your paper. However, we are content with what God has given us in this one verse and onward we go! Here we read about a command given by Jesus. You will recall that servants were standing by to do whatever Jesus told them. Jesus gets right to work and has the servants fill up the jars with water, some 120 to 180 gallons all together depending upon the volume of the jars. What we read next is the best part, the servants obeyed, and then we might realize what is missing - there is no scoffing or pert remarks from the servants. If we had been standing there waiting on Jesus to tell us what to do, we might have been a bit surprised by his order. Fill water jars? They need more wine and he is having us fill the water jars? We don't know what the servants thought of that command, but we can come up with a few thoughts that any of us might have entertained at that moment.

It is often said that you face the choice of calling Jesus a liar, a crazy man, or the Son of God. At this moment the servants might have had a perfectly good excuse for choosing "crazy". Jesus has servants standing by to do his bidding, a clear problem to solve, and he seems to be fooling around with something that has nothing to do with the problem at hand. Was he going to have everyone wash up again since they had run out of wine? Just as we have to learn to trust Jesus when he tells us to do something that we think cannot possibly solve the problem we have brought to him, so the servants obeyed without question in this problem. Some instructions we get from the Bible or the Holy Spirit might seem a bit crazy from our limited point of view. Trusting in God does not come naturally to any of us; we must learn and obey.

Have a wonderful week in Christ Jesus!